Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Forgotten Miracles


Our ancestors in Egypt were not impressed by the Lord’s miraculous deeds. They soon forgot his many acts of kindness to them. Instead, they rebelled against him at the Red Sea. Even so, he saved them—to defend the honor of his name and to demonstrate his mighty power.  Psalm 106.7-8

I came across these verses in my time with God this week and it immediately transported me back to a conversation I had with my Dad recently.
My Dad loves to share Jesus with others and this particular day he was having a conversation with a disillusioned young man.  This troubled man said he couldn’t be believe in the Bible because he had never seen a miracle and he felt it was all a bit unrealistic.  My Dad replied, “You’ve never seen a miracle?!  I’ve seen a lot of miracles in my life!”  And for the next two hours shared with this man all the miracles he had seen and experienced in his life.

As I was listening to my father share this story, I wondered . . .

Would I be able to talk for two hours about the miracles I’ve seen and experienced in my life?
It’s not that I haven’t experienced miracles . . .

It’s just I’ve forgotten . . .   
How easy it is then when we get in difficult places, like the Israelites were – back up against the wall (the Red Sea), to begin to question God.  His power?  His greatness?  His goodness? 

We assume He has set us up to fail.  We listen to the lies that say He’s a dangling-carrot-kind-of-God who takes great joy in yanking things away whenever He feels like it.  We believe He’s a game-playing God who wants to see if we’ll flinch or yell “Uncle”.  We accept as truth, because of what we see, that He’s a malicious, vindictive, and troubling God.
Why? 

I propose it’s because we’ve forgotten.  We’ve forgotten the ways He’s demonstrated to us His might and power.  His unending love.  His elaborate grace.  We’ve forgotten that He is greater.  Wiser.  All-powerful. Simply, we’ve forgotten the miracles.
So how do we keep from forgetting and wallowing in our pain and disillusionment?
We choose to remember.  We make note.  We write down and hold close our God-sightings.

And when the times of disillusionment come, when we feel God has backed us into a corner, left us hanging out to dry, we remember the treasure trove of God-miracles, we bring them out into the light and cling to their truth instead of what we feel.

I don’t know where this Christmas Season finds you.  Times of joy or sorrow?  Times of laughter or disillusionment?  Wherever you are, whatever situation you find yourself in, may you choose to REMEMBER! 
Remember God’s outrageous grace. His priceless gift.  His unending love.  His forever promises.

Remember the miracles you have seen and experienced in your life, let them remind you of God’s great power and might, even when you cannot see! 
When we choose to remember, we will have what we need to face whatever comes our way, without allowing them to shake our foundation and demolish our belief in God.
Let's start by remembering the greatest miracle of all . . .  

God becoming one of us!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Servant Living


 
Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God.  So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around His waist and poured water into a basin.  Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him.  John 17.3-5

Jesus knew who he was.  He knew where He had come from and where He was going.  This was God, the Creator of the universe, King Eternal, Yahweh washing the feet of the one’s He had created. 

For the disciples, this was a “shock and awe” moment!  No Rabbi or any person of significant status had ever washed another’s feet.  It just wasn’t done.  The job of foot washing was always relegated to the lowest of the low, the refuse of society.

But Jesus never let society dictate His behavior, He never let it deviate Him from His mission.  He had come to serve.  Just hours from this moment, Jesus would demonstrate His greatest act of service, His coup d'├ętat, the cross!  Overthrowing the norms, the status-quo and turning this self-driven, people pleasing society on its head.

After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them, “Since, I your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.  I have given you an example to follow.  Do as I have done to you.”  (John 13.12-14)

Do what I do. Serve each other. 

Having the heart of a servant was a way of living for Jesus and it should be for those of us who are His followers.  It wasn’t one act of service, followed by a myriad of self-driven deeds.  It was a lifestyle of service.  Unconditional service.  No expectations.  Service born from a heart that loves.

Jesus’ greatest act of service, the cross, came from a heart propelled by love.  And so should our service derive from a heart of love for those He created.

Unconditional service is never easy.  Unconditional service always has a cost but it is a way of life for those who choose to follow.  It marks us as true followers of the One who first demonstrated His love for us!

Lord, we confess in this every-man-for himself world, we have lost sight of this servant way of living.  We have allowed the world and its ways to color our perspective and justify our self-centered choices.  Teach us to have the heart of a servant and to live each day, following the example you set for us.  Amen
 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thank You, Jesus


Thank you, Jesus . . . for rescuing me.

I was arrogant, self-seeking, and prideful.  I didn’t need You.  But You chose me and laid bare my depravity. A knife to my soul.  A necessary pain, to break away the old and form the new and I am forever grateful!  

For though He wounds, He also bandages.  He strikes but His hands also heal.  Job 5.18 

Thank you, Jesus . . . for giving me life.

A life everlasting.  A life that begins now! My old way of living was a meager existence, a barely-getting-by reality.  But now I’ve stepped into a new reality, a new way of living.  Embracing the journey You have for me, viewing my circumstance through a new lens, knowing You are shaping me with a future purpose in mind!   

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look God’s home is now among His people!  He will live with them, and they will be His people.  God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever.”  And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look I am making everything new!”  Revelation 21.3-53

Thank you, Jesus . . . for making me Your beloved daughter.

No matter where I go, no matter what happens to me, no matter what someone says about me, I’m your child!  Nothing and no one (including me) will ever change that!  I am Your most precious possession.  You love me with an everlasting love. 

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!  1 John 3.1 

I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself. Jeremiah 31.3

Thank you, Jesus . . . for your faithfulness to me.

You never give up on me.  You never throw in the towel.  No matter what I do or say, you remain faithful.  You are the SAME, yesterday, today and forever!  Your love for me knows no end.  My behavior never changes who You are.    
 
               Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Hebrews 13.8 

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.  Lamentations 3.22-23 

Thank you, Jesus . . . for knowing me.

You know me and yet you still love me!  You know my thoughts, intents and desires.  You know what’s best for me, what I need and what I don’t.  You are always for me. 

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.  Psalm 139.1-2 

Thank you, Jesus . . . for allowing me to know You!

You have given me Your Word so that I may know You. This isn’t a casual relationship but an intimate, personal, all-consuming one!  You are the lover of my soul and You desire me to know You.  

This is what the Lord says:  Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches.  But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone:  That they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things.  I, the Lord, have spoken!  Jeremiah 9.24


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Soul Quiet


 


My soul quietly waits for the True God alone; my salvation comes from Him.  Psalm 62.1 

I confess, I am rarely quiet.  It is go, go, go.  Do, do, do.  And at the end of the day, it’s difficult to turn off my brain and rest.  I find it easy to take refuge in all I’ve accomplished and ignore the unsettled, restless feelings in my heart.  Focusing on the doing, rather than the being. 

Someone once told me, we aren’t human-doings, we’re human-beings.    

How true this is and yet how uncomfortable we find “being” to be. 

When am I ever “soul quiet”?  

We’re fixers . . .    

We don't need a Savior because we are our own savior.  We need money, we take out a loan.  We no longer feel in love with our spouse so we dump them for a newer model.  Our child is struggling with a teacher, we move them to a different class.  Our in-laws are driving us crazy, we cut them out of the picture.  We read self-help books, see counselor after counselor, and take matters into our own hands.  

Waiting is for those who are lazy.  Waiting wastes time.  Waiting never solves anything. 

We don’t need a Rescuer because we are our own rescuer. 

It’s easy to rationalize away this call for soul quiet waiting. 

Soul quiet is hard.  Soul quiet takes precious time.  Soul quiet takes perseverance and intentionality. 
 
Soul quiet causes us to let go of the list and focus on the being.  Soul quiet forces us to be still.  Soul quiet brings us face to face with who we are deep down inside. 

We will never pursue this life accidentally.  The voices of this world shout loud and long and unless we choose to remove our self from their continual barrage we will never learn to listen to the whispers of our Savior.   

Years ago I learned a soul quiet practice called “Contemplative Prayer”, also known as Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading).  I have found it to be a wonderful way of helping me learn to quiet my soul and wait on God.

Here’s how it works:

*Read aloud the passage of Scripture (should be only 2-3 verses).  Listen to the words and be still for 1-2 minutes. 

*Read aloud again and Reflect for another 1-2 minutes:  What in this passage touches my life today? 
 
*Read aloud again and Respond for another 1-2 minutes:  What is God inviting me to do
today?
 
*Read aloud again and Rest for another 1-2 minutes:  Ask nothing, simply rest in the presence
of the Lord.

*Write down what God has spoken to you through His Word. 

I encourage you today to take Philippians 4.6-7 and begin your soul quiet practice.

God is calling all of us to the soul quiet way of living.  Resting in His presence.  Waiting on Him to rescue us.  Quieting our hearts before Him.   
 
It’s the way of Peace even when our worlds are turned upside down.  It’s the way of Joy even when there is tremendous pain.  It is the path of Life for those who choose to walk its way.
 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Outlandish Faith


 
What would cause someone to go against the tide of social influence?  What would make them stand up against a vast amount of their peers and refuse to go along with what they believe?  Peer pressure is a powerful force and few can stand against it!   

However, there were two men in the Bible who did just that . . .

Caleb and Joshua were chosen, along with ten other men, to explore the Promised Land and give a report to Moses and the people.  When they returned ten of the spies were against conquering the land.  This is what they said, “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there.  All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”  (Numbers 13:32-33 NLT)

Caleb and Joshua disagreed!  They wanted to go immediately and take the land.

“But all the people began to cry and weep.  Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron.”(Numbers 14:1-2 NLV)

 By this time, you would think Caleb and Joshua would have given in to this incredible amount of pressure but they didn’t.  Listen to what they said, “It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.  Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” (Number 14:7-9 NLV) 

When everyone else was trembling in fear, Caleb and Joshua were ready to march ahead.  Who does that?  Why would they believe when everyone else did not?

They knew who God was!  They had witnessed His constant faithfulness to them, time and time again and they believed!  They saw the Promised Land through a different lens.  They knew the God who created the Universe, who hung the stars in space and formed the land would stand with them, would go before them and they had nothing to fear!

They all had witnessed God’s faithfulness to them; when He provided manna, brought water from a rock and saved them from the Egyptians!  What caused Caleb and Joshua to believe and the Israelites to doubt? 

To the other Israelites, Caleb and Joshua had an outlandish faith!  It was completely illogical.  But this wild and crazy faith was rooted in an amazing, outlandish God who had proven Himself over and over to them. 

What kind of faith do you have?  How big is your God?  Do you trust Him when things seem impossible, when you can’t see what He is doing? 

The only way to develop this kind of faith is to KNOW your God.  

I encourage you to get into His Word and discover who He is.  He will not disappoint! 

This is what the Lord says:  “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches.  But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love . . .” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NLV)

 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Welcome Home!

 
“Welcome home!”  The immigration officer said as he checked over my passport.  What wonderful words to hear after traveling half way around the globe.

My husband and I had just spent a fabulous eleven days in South Korea visiting our son.  For a few short moments we pretended to be Korean.  We became chopstick aficionados while sitting on the floor eating, enjoying pepper paste and kimchi. (I even braved a little octopus.)  We lived in a Korean home and took in all the sights, smells and sounds of this wonderful land.  It was fantastic!















As incredible as that time was, it didn’t change the fact that we were visitors in a foreign land.  We didn’t speak their language and we were awkward in our attempts to fit into the culture, in fact most of the time I wondered if I was offending them by my crazy American ways.
We were just travelers passing through, taking in all we could for a few short moments.  Then, we kissed our son goodbye and stepped back into the familiar. . .
Home.  A place where we belong, where we can be completely us, where we’re comfortable and things are familiar, like an old comfy sweater or a favorite pair of worn out tennis shoes. Where we speak the same language, know the customs and are a little less awkward.
As comfy and cozy as I am with my living situation here, this isn’t my true home!  This is just a stopping ground, a place to pitch my tent while I await my heavenly lodgings.  It’s why sometimes when I talk about God, I feel like I’m speaking a different language. It’s why “things” never satisfy and I just don’t seem to fit in.  I'm awkward.  And it’s why I always seem to have this vague longing deep in my soul for something more. 
This place isn’t my real home.  
The apostle Peter speaks about this residency issue in 1 Peter 2.11 (I love how the Message puts it), “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it . . . “
One day we will take a different trip.  One day we’ll arrive at our true destination and the "immigration officer", our Savior will say with arms wide open, “Welcome HOME, beloved.  I've been waiting for you!” 
Oh what a day!  It takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes.
Seriously, I can’t wait!!  Can you?

Heavenly Father, help me to never get too comfortable here that I forget where I truly belong, where my real home is.  Amen.
 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Moments


Recently, I spent another amazing week in the Dominican Republic.  I have fallen in love with the people and the country!  Here’s a little of what I experienced while there . .
 
My expectations were running high for this trip.  I had such a wonderful time the previous year and wanted all we had experienced then and more! I felt myself already comparing the previous trip to the upcoming one and I hadn’t even left yet.  As the time drew closer God began to press upon me the importance of being “all there” on this new venture.  Present in every moment . . . not wishing for previous experiences, not comparing and coming up disappointed. 

I felt God calling me out.  Calling me to something deeper.  As wonderful as my previous trip was, He wanted me to experience new and unexpected moments.  He made His intentions very clear as I watched all of my expectations and desires stripped away, one by one. 

It was as if God was peeling off the layers of my heart, each more painful than the last.  Until all I was left with was an undivided, pure, tiny heart now finally ready to receive all that God had for me on this brand new adventure with Him. 
 

And He gave me so much . . .  

Moments of grace as I held a terrified baby having his tendon clipped so he would walk and run and play unhampered by his deformity. 

Moments of friendship forged in the dirt and poverty of this beautiful third world country. Experiences shared as we painted rooms, prayed over children in the hospital, held crying babies and hugged hurting mothers.  We could literally feel the bonds of friendship wrap around our group like an invisible thread of light in places filled with darkness.  It was beautiful.  Eye-catching.  Breathtaking.  God’s love manifested in the lives of ordinary women who accepted the call, stepped out of all that was comfortable and did what Jesus would do.

Moments of sheer terror as we traversed the crazy streets of Santo Domingo, driving into oncoming traffic and pulling into the right lane just in the nick of time.   


Moments of joy in witnessing God’s healing hand on a little girl named Daniella who now can walk!  
 

Moments of uproarious laughter playing Telephone Pictionary during down time with the group, sliding off bus seats as we rounded corners at break neck speeds and watching the children’s joy at a blind man being healed by Jesus.  


Moments of just plain silly fun!  

Moments of tears at the poverty and hopelessness around us.  Tears of awe and amazement by a woman named Evelyn who was a street-kid herself now enveloping unwanted kids in the love of Jesus. Tears of sadness as I glimpsed a man bear crawl his way along the beach, unable to stand due to his deformities, with a smile as wide as the ocean. 


 
Moments of sheer happiness in the reunion of my very special great grandma friend!  An unexpected and treasured gift.  I will forever hold in my heart the moment we laid eyes on each other.  Sweet cherished precious moments.

 

 
Moments of fun as we painted those beautiful little brown faces, made balloon animals, handed out toys, drew pictures on cement, painted fingernails, blew bubbles, watched children’s faces light up with pure happiness and mother’s dance for joy as they received a little mesh bag with a toothbrush and other necessities.
 
 
  
 
 

Moments of beauty when the language barrier became no barrier at all.  



Moments of love as we carried much needed groceries into a tiny orphanage teeming with children and visited with a family in their humble home so proud of their tiny backyard with one little chicken in a cage. 





Moments I will hold close to my heart for a lifetime! 

Taking the child in his arms, Jesus said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the One who sent me.”  (Mark 9.36-37)

  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ugly to Beautiful

I have friends, maybe you’re one of them, who can look at an old dilapidated table found at a flea market and envision what it would like in their house with a little tender loving care.  But when I look at the same old table, I see something that should’ve been hauled off to the dump a long time ago. 

I struggle to see beauty in junk.  And I find myself believing God feels the same way about me.

Then, I remember Peter.

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest followers. Just hours before Jesus was captured and crucified, Peter rashly promised Jesus that he would go to the death for Him . . .

 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”
And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”  
“But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”  (John 13:36-37 NLV)

It was only a few hours later when Peter denied ever even knowing Jesus, not once but three times! 

At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter.  Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind:  “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three time that you even know me.”  And Peter left the courtyard weeping bitterly.  Luke 22.61-62 

Can you imagine how devastating this must have been for Peter?  Was there anything worse than disowning Jesus? Did Peter feel like a piece of garbage?  Trash to be thrown away? 

Far from throwing Peter out, Jesus finds him and asks not once but three times if Peter loves Him.  Something beautiful takes root in Peter's heart . . .

From that moment on, Peter is a different man. He becomes a powerful spokesperson for the gospel of Jesus Christ and God uses him to turn hearts to Him.  What Peter saw as junk in his life; his biggest failure was what God used to make him stronger, more determined and more driven to follow Jesus and boldly share the Good News.

God took this broken man; his messy bits, his glaring failures, and shaped him into something jaw-droppingly beautiful! 

When I look at my life, the messy bits, the poor choices, I see a huge mess.  A pile of junk!  I see no redeemable qualities whatsoever.

But God does the same thing with me as He did with Peter.  He sees my messy piles and envisions something beautiful and accepts the challenge of turning my chaos and clutter into something truly breath-taking.  Look what Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Isn’t that amazing!  He doesn’t just see our junk but remarkably He uses it to make something beautiful!  God sees the BIG PICTURE. We only see the here and now, the failures, the mistakes, the regrets but God uses all of it to accomplish His great plan for us.

Look at what God does in nature:  He changes an unsightly caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly and an "ugly duckling" into a magnificent swan.

If He can do that to a caterpillar or an "ugly duckling", think what He can do with us! 
 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

When Scripture Doesn't Work


http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1440669
When I was eight years old, my family moved from the beautiful state of Alaska to sunny California.  I traded an isolated existence (we lived fifty miles from the nearest town) for an atmosphere teeming with human beings, automobiles and television sets.  Simply stated, I was overwhelmed and afraid.  We went from never locking our doors, to keeping them locked all day, every day.  Cars raced up and down our road all hours of the day and night and I was inundated with news stories of people being robbed and murdered. Fear became my constant companion. 
The ugly monster of fear was especially scary in the small hours of the night.  I would lay awake terrified someone was going to murder us all in our beds.  Every little noise sent panic coursing through my body, my heart would pound and I would hold my breath hardly daring to breathe. Night after night this monster relentlessly pursued me.
I recently came across a verse I was encouraged to say when I was in this dark place, and the memories of this fear-ridden time in my life came rushing back . . .
I would lay in my bed, frozen with fear, reciting this verse, over and over, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.  What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.  What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.”  Psalm 56.3 (I learned it in the King James Version.  I often wonder now what God must have thought as he listened to an eight year old little girl saying “Thee”.  I hope it made Him smile.) 
Reciting this verse, no matter how many times I said it, never really seemed to do any good.  I was still absolutely and completely terrified.
As an adult now, looking back on this time in my childhood, I understand now why the recitation didn’t work.  God didn’t design His Word to be quoted over and over again, like magic words that will open a hidden door.  It was given so that we might let its truth sink deep into our souls and change us from the inside out.  His Word is not a rabbit’s foot or a magic wand.  It is has power only when we let it change us.  
God’s Word was given for transformation not mindless recitation.

Letting Scripture change our heart and mind, takes determination and grit.  It takes intentionality and fortitude as we allow it to point out our flaws, shine light on the hidden places of our soul, and reveal the fragility of our faith. 
Endlessly repeating words, even God’s Words, will never accomplish what putting into practice, living out and embracing His Truth will do.